28 February 2011

Oriental Art Museum in Rome

 Yesterday's post made me think of the many museums existing in famous cities, lots of which unfortunately get forgotten by hasty tourists and travellers...
One of these is the Oriental Art Museum in Rome, Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale  .
Tourists visit  Rome in millions, but obviously  they want to see the Roman archeological sites , the many wonderful museums recording Roman history... Few of them ever notice this museum or bother to visit it.
When I went there with my children - it was July 2009 - , visitors were so few that the employee at the ticket office took note by hand of the tickets sold, writing the number in a notebook..I noticed that  only 5 tickets had been sold before ours on that day, and about 20 people had visited the museum in the previous couple of days...
So a visit there could be a refreshing rest  after the overcrowded "traditional" museums and usual  places  where  tourists go. It's well worth a visit if you can spare a couple of hours from your Rome tour.
The funny -and sad- thing is that such museum could be a main attraction in a smaller city (just like, I'm sure, many of the lesser museums in Paris or London) , but being in Rome is condemned to be deserted by everybody except a few scholars and tourists who get there by chance...Like us, who got lost thanks to my excellent sense of direction and happened to end up in front of that museum, and decided to visit it.

The palace that houses the museum is beautiful, Palazzo Brancaccio , and the collection pieces are displayed in a traditional but effective way, in well lighted glass cabinets all around the big rooms.
I took many photos there as it was allowed (very unusually for an Italian museum!), but few of them are of good quality  as they were made without flash nor tripod and my camera at the time didn't have any image stabilizer... Anyway this is a small selection of the photos I took.

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27 February 2011

An interesting on-line exhibition

Threads of feeling
18th Century Textile Tokens left with Abandoned Babies at the London Foundling Hospital

This is a very unusual and interesting exhibition, and a beautiful online slide display can be seen at the exhibition site (click on "The Online Exhibition").
It's a collection of small samples of the fabrics (clothes, ribbons, laces) left with abandoned babies  at the Foundling Hospital.
Many pieces of fabrics are also accompanied by a letter or an explanation, giving  the name of the child and date of birth  and /or baptism; sometimes even the reason why the child had been abandoned... Dates range  around 1750; at the time surely a big part of London population lived in extreme poverty, and Foundling Hospital was probably the only hope of life for many children.
The exhibition is interesting especially because it gives us a glimpse on ancient "poor" textiles...Several museums have a wealth of rich and finely embroidered clothes of this age, but we tend to forget that those were not what usual people used in their everyday life... Most often, they were the best garments  of wealthy and noble people, the only things that would be preserved  and cared about for centuries.
Normal clothes of more modest materials would be used as long as they were good, and then become rags ... Very little or nothing remains of common fabrics from past centuries as people didn't bother to keep them (but it's the same today; who would care about old T-shirts and worn tablecloths? Do we keep them for posterity or future researchers? I don't...). So this is an almost unique occasion to study everyday textiles from mid- 18th century. Some of them are embroidered, many others are printed ..Others are just plain fabrics, looking mostly like today's traditional kitchen towels.
In a few cases the name of the child was embroidered on the fabric (or a ribbon), the impression we get is that these were not "unwanted" children and we can just imagine what tragedies led to the decision of  abandoning them.
A really unique and unusual exhibition, I hope one day I'll manage to visit the Museum in London....

23 February 2011

Milan tramways

Yesterday there was a blackout in the electric line that feeds tramways in my neighbourhood; I was out so I could see the unusual spectacle of empty tramways abandoned on rails...

Most of them were contemporary tramways of course, but in Milano also a number of ancient ones are in regular service. Some lines are still served by models that were manufactured in 1929, and are still in very good conditions (and often more reliable than modern ones!)

I was lucky enough to spot two historical pieces, about a century old.
It was such an unusual occasion to see these transports still, that I took these photos with my phone!

This one, which is now used to spread sand on rails during the winter...
(It looks so short and small compared to modern ones!)

And a similar one that should be little older (judging from its serial number!) but was luckier as it was well kept and destined to host parties and celebrations (tramways in Milan can be hired for parties, and even for marriages!)


17 February 2011

New issue of Il Ricamo uploaded

This one is No. 38, dating 22 September 1907 ...  More than a hundred years ago! And I must say this issue shows all its age... Pages were practically into pieces, ironing and positioning them for photos was quite difficult.
Unfortunately the big Patterns Sheet was missing in this issue, but there are some interesting pages and patterns all the same, and some drawings showing fashion of the time... And a cover for a piano, which looks like a rather unusual item nowadays.

Now this issue too is on the page dedicated to Il Ricamo magazine on my site, Italian Needlecrafts , where it's available for free download.

09 February 2011


Today I received this book from TheBookDepository 

It was written by the famous neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks; I  had read many of his  books, but didn't know this one...Then I started to suffer from optical migraines myself!
When one happens , I see a zig-zag line, black and white, much as in this drawing featured in the book:

Actually in my "visions" the white looks very white, and the black totally dark  (I see them black and white, some people see them in colours) and the lines are very defined and precise, as if they were printed...The effect is very psychedelic!
Inside the zig-zag line, there is a blind spot...But it's not a grey spot like in the drawing. That would still be _something_... Actually in that area there is _nothing_... I don't have the perception that some part of the image is missing, except that, of course, I can't see the things that I know should be there! It's just a big blind spot, and the brain just pastes together the other parts of what I see without leaving any grey or missing area! It's very strange, and also rather frightening at first.
This while thing lasts about 20-30 minutes, then disappears quickly,  sometimes leaving place to other (even more worrying!) symptoms, sometimes to headaches, or maybe to nothing! Headache does not always happen in optical migraines, in spite of their name... And they can be confused with other more worrying problems. (A CAT with contrast luckily confirmed my brain is alright!)
Anyway, I can't wait to read this book! It looks very interesting and I know almost nothing on the topic... I hope I will find some useful explanations, though I guess I'll just have to learn to live with migraines (hopefully not too frequent...)

05 February 2011

Improving my photos

Ever since I bought  my new camera, I've tried to improve my photos..
Etsy seller AtelierPompadour  posted few days ago a link to an article appeared on  www.handmadeology.com giving very useful suggestions to take better photos without having to buy a lightbox or studio equipment...Basically, a board covered with aluminium foil is used to mirror the sunlight coming from a window, giving a better light. Very quick and easy!
This is perfect for me, I decided... As my apartment tends to be rather dark, taking photos is always a problem for me.
For example, this was a photo I took of an embroidered decoration I made...

I took it under artificial light, and even if I improved it a little with Gimp or Picnik (I don't remember which one I used that time) to try to look it less yellowish,  the strong shadow under it doesn't make it a good photo...
So today I took photos again, this time at sunlight and using the aluminium-covered  board to reflect back a part of the light...
This was the original photo, as I took it:

 Not too good either! :-) (And the window frame still have paint marks I never cleaned! )
But the important thing I obtained was that the shade was rather lighted by the reflection of the aluminium board, it was not as defined as it would have been without it... Of course a bit of light more would have been nice, but unfortunately the sun had already moved away (showing just a thin ray in the photo!), so this was the best I could get.
I thought that  Gimp would be of  help! With it I cropped most of the photos, made it lighter and modified the colour levels until I decided it looked well enough...
And this is the final result of this first attempt

Of course I know this is not perfect, and I still have much work to do...But I'm glad I could improve my photos in an easy and inexpensive way, and especially without having to build a lightbox (that I wouldn't know where to place!) Next time will go even better!